A PRIEST might find himself on Santa's naughty list this Christmas after bold comments he made to pupils in a local national school.
Fr Martin Hegarty caused a real festive season stir when he suggested that Father Christmas did not exist.
Fr Hegarty, who retired as parish priest of the Kerry seaside parish of Ballybunion last year, made the remarks when visiting fourth, fifth and sixth class children in Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal in Lixnaw. His mission was to discuss the true meaning of Christmas and all went well as he told the story of the baby Jesus.
But he then suggested that the children were too old to believe in one traditional element of the season of goodwill – the jolly man in the red suit. Parents reacted furiously when they were later informed of his comments.
The matter was discussed by teachers and parents and the issue was later raised at a meeting of the school's board of management.
The children involved, some as young as 10, were reassured by their parents that the priest had made a big mistake and that they could look forward to a very special visit from Santa.
In a statement issued through the Diocese of Kerry last night, Fr Hegarty said he regretted any upset caused.
"I must admit that Santa Claus is not my area of expertise," he declared.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the workshop elves in the North Pole last night told the Irish Independent that Santa was very busy preparing for Christmas and that a sack full of very special gifts for children in Lixnaw was already loaded onto the sleigh.